How do you tell a partner that you’re suffering with a mental disorder? The truth is, it’s never easy and mostly just plain awkward! In my experience, just talking about my issues out loud is enough to make my heart race. Speaking about anxiety makes me anxious. How about that for a catch 22?!
I hid the extent of my problems from Dan for a long time. He knew that I had a nervous condition, but didn’t realise just how bad it was. I was convinced that if he knew how much of a ‘freak’ I really was then he’d leave. Why would anyone want to stay with someone like me? Surely I’m a burden? Erratic doesn’t even begin to cover it.
So I did what every anxious person would do in my place, I kept my mouth shut and drank lots of alcohol in situations that made me feel nervous.
December 30th 2012. This was the night when I couldn’t pretend anymore. The panic attacks had set in and they were relentless, (please read my post; Once upon a time, if you want the full gory details of that evening.) I’d been repressing my anxiety for so long that it literally burst through my subconscious and into reality. It screamed for attention and I screamed for it to stop. (Certainly not your average Sunday night.)
Rather than being told in a calm and informative way, poor Dan witnessed my disorder in full force. It wasn’t the way that he deserved to find out. Chasing me around the flat he desperately tried to calm me down, but because I’d never given him any information previously, he had no idea what to do. What’s worse, I left him the next day. I left him for three whole weeks and went home to my parent’s house. During those weeks I was terrified that I might lose him. I didn’t know whether I’d ever be able to think straight again, let alone move back to London. I would cry at him down the phone; You won’t be able to cope with this, I’ll ruin your life! Sometimes I wonder if I wanted him to leave me. Maybe I wanted to prove that nobody would ever want to stay once they found out about the anxiety.
Fortunately, despite all of the darkness Dan never lost sight of me. He waited patiently until I came back to him.
Once back in London we finally had the conversation that we should’ve had months ago; Babe I have Anxiety Disorder and it can cause panic attacks. Some days are worse than others but I’m getting the right help. Trust me, just saying that out loud is liberating. The truth is a strange beast, you try and hide it but ultimately it sets you free.
So how do you go about doing it.. ‘coming out’ I mean? The best advice I can give is to be organised and treat it almost like a mini presentation (the non-scary kind!)
- Be patient with your audience and remember; they might not understand what you’re going through, but they’ll listen.
- Choose the right time to talk, E.g. Not during their favourite TV programme or at a party! Car journeys are good for chatting, or even schedule a meeting in the living room. (It sounds cheesy, but it’s important that you can talk without any distractions.
- Tell them what you’re afraid of. If you’re afraid that they’ll leave then admit it. Often partners will be shocked by this and make an extra effort to be considerate.
- Use print outs. I typed up notes for Dan, with basic info about anxiety and things that he can do to help if I have an attack. They love you and will want to help, so show them how!
- Make it clear how you don’t want them to behave. In the past your partner may have used phrases such as; Snap out of it! Thinking that‘tough love’ might help. Explain why this does not help and instead suggest more useful phrases such as; It’s ok, it’ll pass.
- Give them the opportunity to ask questions. It’s only natural to be curious.
- If you’d like to talk to your manager about anxiety issues, then you might want to give them a ‘heads up’ via email. Anxiety is a registered mental illness and must be taken seriously. If you don’t feel as though you can talk to your manager then schedule a meeting with HR, they’ll certainly be very receptive!
FYI – If your partner is not understanding or even remotely interested in your condition, then you may want to assess your situation. Can you stay with someone who is unwilling to accept any of your flaws? It’s important to have someone in your life who will support not punish you.
Remember, anxiety tricks you into feeing ashamed. You wouldn’t feel embarrassed if you broke your leg or had a migraine, so treat anxiety in the same way. You are no more of a burden than your partner is when he’s hung over or has man flu. (Feel free to rephrase this if your partner is female!)
So come out of that closet and feel proud!!
This one is for you babe, thank you for being my rock. I love you xxxx